The Best Ways To Experience The Wonders Of Varanasi

The holy city of Varanasi needs no introduction. Considered one of Hinduism’s most sacred cities, Varanasi is a big hit with tourists both in India and abroad. Pilgrims flock to the holy city in droves, and recent years have also seen a massive increase in the number of backpackers in the city.

For the first time visitor, Varanasi can be quite intimidating. Its narrow alleys and streets have a certain chaotic appeal to them, and it would seem easier to give up on the place and find another destination. But a Delhi Agra Varanasi tour package would be left incomplete without a tour of the holy city.

Here’s how you can make your Varanasi stay a memorable one!

The Glorious Ghats

Varanasi is a city on the banks of the holy River Ganges, and its Ghats are the gateways to the Ganges’ waters. The city is home to numerous Ghats, but no two Ghats are ever the same. All the Ghats serve specific purposes. While some Ghats like Assi Ghat are for bathing, others such as Manikarnika Ghat witness cremation rituals. A walk alongthe vast, 7 km. long stretch is an unforgettable experience; a spectacular contrast of life and death. The honour of being Varanasi’s most famous Ghat goes to the Dashashwamedh Ghat, which is an absolute treat to visit during sunsets, thanks to the daily Ganga aarti.

Boat Rides on the Ganges

In case the Ghats seem too crowded for you, you can leave them all behind and settle for some calm amidst the waters of the Ganges. Hire a boat, and head out into the open waters! Sunrise is perhaps the best time for a boat ride on an Agra Varanasi tour, and even in the early hours of morning, Varanasi’s lively personality is very evident. But before you hire any boat, be prepared to negotiate. The ever-increasing popularity of boat rides in the city means that the initial asking price would always be high. However, if you negotiate well, you could save yourself quite a bit of money!

Visit the City of Sarnath

While Hinduism is the prevalent religion in Varanasi, not very far from the city lies an important centre of Buddhism. After he attained enlightenment, it is said that Lord Gautama Buddha gave his first ever sermon here. Sarnath reached its peak during the days of Ashoka, who established numerous monasteries and stupas in the city. However, the city faced years of decline as invaders left it ruined. However, in the 19th Century, the city resurfaced thanks to the efforts of British archaeologists. The city today is visited by Buddhists from all over the globe, and is renowned for its iconic stupas; the Chaukhandi Stupa and the Dhamek Stupa. The Mulagandhakuti Vihara monastery is also quite well known.

Treat the Shopaholic in You

While you won’t find many fancy, upmarket malls in Varanasi, you would still find a lot of options to treat the shopaholic in you to some fine articles of interest. Jewellery and sarees are incredibly popular in Varanasi, and generally feature exquisite craftsmanship, with fine thread work and designs their hallmarks.

Head over to any of the main shopping areas like Chowk, Godowilia, Thateri Bazaar, or Vishwanath Lane, and you could pick from a huge variety of bangles, carpets, idols of Buddhist and Hindu deities, jewellery and sarees. However, you must bargain if you wish for a decent deal. As soon as shopkeepers understand that you aren’t a local, they would start to demand extravagant prices, even for mediocre goods.

Take a Tour of the Sights

The charm of the Ghats and Ganges River often makes people forget about the other interesting sights and sounds of Varanasi. Being a holy city, Varanasi is home to numerous ancient temples, but none are as prominent as the Vishwanath Temple. Built in the late 18th Century, the temple is renowned for its 800 kg. gold plating, which has earned it the nickname of ‘Golden Temple’. Pilgrims and tourists from all parts of the world converge at this temple. While it may get chaotic at times, it certainly makes for an immersive religious experience.

Ramnagar Fort is yet another famous destination in Varanasi. Situated on the banks of the Ganges, much of this 17th Century fort is now in ruins. It is home to a museum with an eclectic collection of old cars, chairs, and weapons. Visit the fort during sunset to experience some dramatic views.

Feast on Some Street Food

If a tour of Varanasi’s Ghats and temples leave you hungry, take to the streets to enjoy the local street food. KachauriGali is a popular destination for local delicacies like KhastaChauri, Lassi, and Launglatta. If you are in the mood for a high, try a thandai– almonds, pistachios and sugar mixed in milk – along with bhang. Be careful however, bhang in large quantities may pose medical risks! Banarasipaan is the local favourite when it comes to post-meal mouth fresheners.

With all the aforementioned experiences in your bag, you are guaranteed to head back to Varanasi at least one more time in your life!

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